WTO Must Apply The Precautionary Principle: Greenpeace
WTO MUST APPLY THE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE: GREENPEACE
GENEVA, March 23, 2000 - The credibility of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) will be further diminished unless it recognises and implements the precautionary principle, Greenpeace said today as world trade talks on agriculture resumed here.
Greenpeace was today beginning the first dialogue with the WTO since the breakdown of international trade talks in Seattle last year. Greenpeace is holding a workshop today in Geneva for WTO staff and delegates on a key area of dispute – the precautionary principle - which involves the recognition that governments must take action to protect the environment before environmental damage occurs. An example is genetically modified organisms (GMOs) which are being grown and promoted before their long-term impacts are understood or even identified.
“Recognition and use of the precautionary principle was made in the international agreement to protect biodiversity from genetically modified organism (GMO)s, known as the Biosafety Protocol, which was adopted in January in Montreal” said Greenpeace International Political Director Remi Parmentier. “These negotiations went some way towards resolving the uncertainties surrounding the relationship of the WTO with multilateral environmental agreements.” The protocol states: ”that this Protocol shall not be interpreted as implying an incompatibility with the rights and obligations of a Party under any existing international agreements applying to the transboundary movements of living modified organisms”.
Parmentier said past experience had shown that much human suffering and economic loss could have been avoided if the precautionary principle had been applied when early scientific warnings were made about the impact of CFCs on the ozone layer, the build up of persistent organic pollutants in the environment, the collapse of commercial fisheries and climate change.
He said trade-related measures to protect the environment could be useful for managing consumption and catalysing international action, as shown with the prevention of imports of hazardous wastes by developing countries that led to the Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes (1989), and the controversy over GMOs that has led to the adoption of the Biosafety Protocol in January 2000.
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